Faf to make life hell for NZ's playmakers
WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT: Faf de Klerk is ready to do all he can to disrupt the All Blacks’ game once again when the Springboks meet them in their World Cup opener in Yokohama on Saturday.
De Klerk has proved himself to be a feisty operator, combining slick distribution with a defensive game that punches well above his weight.
He has become a master at putting pressure on the opposition halfbacks and the All Blacks are aware of that after the last few meetings between the teams.
The All Blacks have great depth at No.9, but De Klerk is unfazed about the prospect of facing either Aaron Smith or TJ Perenara as his opposite number.
“They’re both great guys and both great scrumhalves. Either one of them can start and it shouldn’t have any influence on the team and that’s a great spot to be in,” he said.
“They play with a lot of freedom, great kicking, great chat on defence.
“The challenge for me is to put them under pressure… and from a tactical side, kick well and get some quick ball.”
The All Blacks are likely to employ the twin playmaker tactic introduced this year, meaning Richie Mo’unga will start at flyhalf and Beauden Barrett at fullback.
That combination started together for the first time in the 16-16 draw between the two teams in Wellington and struggled for traction.
The pair have since looked better together but de Klerk said the Boks hadn’t poured hours into planning specifically for them.
“It doesn’t seem as if there is a massive difference. Mo’unga will sometimes be at 15 and Barrett at 10 – that’s just the way it works, and Ben Smith could also go to 15,” he said.
De Klerk is one of eight players in the Springbok squad to be based overseas, something he says “does give us a little bit of advantage”.
“Obviously the more teams you get to watch, play against, you get ideas, get a feel for how a guy plays,” he said.
“I know a lot of the England players now, so I can sum them up a bit better. There are definite advantages to that and it’s just doing our homework on the people we don’t know.”
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But he insisted that the Boks were not the favourites going into the showdown with New Zealand.
“Going into the match, both teams can win it,” De Klerk said. “We know it’s going to be a tight game.
“In the last four games (between the two sides), there have been two points in it, so we’re definitely confident we can win it.
“But I think it’s going to be 50-50. It’s going to come down to a lucky moment or a referee call.
“We’ve got some confidence behind us with a few wins so hopefully we can carry that forward into the World Cup.”
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Meanwhile, an overcast and rainy day is expected when the two sides meet on Saturday, but the Springboks remained as cool and calm as they have been throughout their time in Japan.
“The weather’s the same for both sides so irrespective of what it’s like, both teams will have to play in it,” said Matt Proudfoot, assistant coach.
“We have trained in Japan for two weeks or so now and we have experienced the weather differentials – whether it has been hot and humid or dry or rainy – so we’ve had the opportunity to experience the full spectrum of weather and we’ll prepare as such for Saturday.
“Our plan won’t change much but if the weather changes during the game we’ll re-assess that.
“The plan to come here two weeks in advance to play the game against Japan was exactly for that reason – to experience the full range of weather condition and I think that plan has been successful.”
Damian de Allende agreed although the current conditions are different to his previous Japanese experience: “When I played (club rugby) here, it was in November and the weather was a lot colder and the ball was a lot drier – it didn’t rain a lot.
“But it has been very hot and humid and the ball has been quite wet and the plan against Japan was not to overplay. We’ll be ready for whatever comes.”
Sources: AFP & AAP